With Wisconsin coming to town for arguably the biggest non-conference game ever in Corvallis, we exchanged some questions and answers with Badger experts.
Andy Coppens at MadTownBadgers.com gave us a great look at how Wisconsin followers feel after their closer than some expected 26-21 win over a very good FCS Northern Iowa Panthers team last Saturday at Camp Randall.
Montee Ball obviously showed no ill effects from that concussion, rushing for 120 yards on 32 carries, and adding 31 more on 3 catches, including that impressive 4 consecutive carries for 24 yards and 2 first downs put the game away. The only thing missing was a really big play, yardage wise, with nothing over 16 yards. What will Wisconsin need to do to get the game-breaking play from him?
Badger fans have to be pretty pleased with new quarterback Danny O'Brien, who completed 19 of 23 passes, for 219 yards and 2 scores, and with no interceptions. That 83% accuracy especially stood out. Did you expect that good of a performance? Can he sustain it?
Honestly, has there ever been a more ho-hum 150yd performance? I can't remember the last time people were disappointed in a game like that. I mean, stretch it out over 12 games and that's 1,440 yards. The issue for Ball was that this was his first real work as he didn't receive any contact in fall camp. It was clear that he needed to knock off some rust and you have to be encouraged that his best run came in his final series for that 16 yarder you talked about. He'll be fine and I'd expect him to be in even better form this weekend.
Expectations for what O'Brien was going to look like varied a lot among those who got to see him and those that didn't. For me, this was a very cautious, but very encouraging performance. He showed a great understanding of the playbook and what was needed to make plays successful. In fact on both TD passes to Abbrederis he knew before the snap that they were going for TD's.
As for sustaining an 83% completion rate, I don't think anyone is going to sustain that level, but what I do expect is that as the season goes on the Badgers will be able to use him as an effective weapon as teams try to stack against the run.
Given those numbers, why didn't the offense find a way to put enough points on the board to pull away? What will Wisconsin do differently to fix that this week?
3rd down conversion was a problem for the Badgers and it appeared that a few missed assignments cost them some points, but this was also a team that was a perfect 4-for-4 in redzone conversions so I'm not too worried about that.
The defense kept Northern Iowa bottled up early, but the Panthers found some holes in the secondary as the game went on. What will coach Bret Bielema do to tighten up the pass defense?
I think you are referring to the two wheel routes that went for touchdowns mainly, and those were plays that involved busted coverages that will get corrected and the players that missed them (LB Mike Taylor and S Dez Southward) acknowledged their mistakes and no one works harder to correct them than Taylor does.
Outside of that, the Badgers played a lot of zone defense that allowed UNI to dink and dunk down the field. I wouldn't expect that to happen often anymore.
Is Badger Nation comfortable with that first game? They seemed a little jumpy having an FCS team, albeit a very good one, taking the Badgers to the wire.
There is a very mixed reaction, some think the world is coming to an end and some just see it as working the kinks out. I tend to be on the side of the latter on this one. The Badgers have a history of playing down to competition from time to time in the non-conference schedule and at least it happened in the first week instead of week 3 as we enter Big Ten play. I mean, this is a team that featured 5 new starters on the offensive side of the ball - it's not game one should've been perfect.
Those that see it as the sky is falling forget that we held them completely in check for nearly 3 quarters. UNI didn't cross into Badgers territory till mid-way through the 3rd quarter, so they did some nice things as well.
What are you folks in the upper mid-west doing to assemble so many huge linemen? I count 15 offensive linemen on the roster that are well over 300 lbs., and tackle Rob Havenstein is 6'8", and 348 lbs.! There may not be any human beings in the state of Oregon that big!
Well, it's all that cheese, brats, and beer we serve around here. That and Havenstein is a freak of nature. Seriously, watch just how athletic this guy is at nearly 350lbs., it's very impressive. Now, his partnership with Zach Matthias/Kyle Costigan needs to become more cohesive but that will come with time.
Finally, how many Badger fans will Beaver Nation be entertaining at tailgaters before Saturday's game? Oregon St. sent a good sized contingent to Madison last year, and except for getting drubbed 35-0, really enjoyed the trip, and are looking forward to extending a warm welcome to the Badgers. Will Wisconsin travel well to the west coast? And will we see any of you from MadTown Badgers at the game?
I have a feeling you'll be seeing a serious contingent of Badger fans out there in Corvallis. We always travel well and it's a massive party for the people that frequent a certain Badgers message board, so you'll be entertaining some fine people out there. Unfortunately none of us from MadTownBadgers will be out there this weekend as we have some live appearances at local establishments and a pre-game/post-game radio show to produce. However, should be play again I'd love to get out that way.
Thanks again, Andy; looking forward to the Badgers' visit.